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Publication: 22.05.2020

Ensuring Continuity of Nutrition Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Eastern and Southern Africa

This week we share the experience of UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO), with strategies to ensure continuity of nutrition services in these unprecedent times.

UNICEF co-chairs with WHO the regional partners group that developed the Eastern and Southern Africa Inter-Agency Nutrition Guidance and works with regional economic commissions to support the implementation of nutrition guidance. For example, the Food Security Bulletin of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC, April 2020) focused on lifesaving nutrition actions during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we contribute actively to regional inter-agency working groups in both Eastern and Southern Africa to monitor nutrition indicators.

To support continuity of essential nutrition services, UNICEF issued a Joint Statement on Infant Feeding in the Context of COVID-19 (March 2020), in collaboration with WFP, WHO and UNHCR. In the first quarter of 2020, over nine million mothers and caregivers were reached with messaging on infant and young child feeding, including through two radio-spots produced by ESARO to communicate with health workers and caregivers on the importance of breastfeeding during this pandemic.

Country level initiatives include e-learning in Somalia, local language television and radio messaging in Eritrea, and innovative data collection such as U-Report and Rapid- Pro in Zimbabwe. A total of 17 countries have adopted simplified approaches for treatment of child wasting and 300,000 children with severe wasting were treated in Q1-2020. In addition, mass production of MUAC tapes and a regional therapeutic milk storage hub have been established to ensure timely availability of key lifesaving supplies.

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